NHL union prepares its counteroffer

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman arrives for National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman arrives for collective bargaining talks in Toronto. (Aug. 15, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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The NHL Players' Association could offer a counterproposal for a new collective bargaining agreement by Thursday, although numerous issues remain unresolved as a Sept. 15th expiration date -- and perhaps a lockout -- looms.

Among the snags that surfaced publicly Wednesday: How to agree on what is included in hockey-related revenues before that pie is divided and a proposed increase in escrow set aside by players, rather than a salary rollback, which was part of the 2004-05 contract.

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After Wednesday's session between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and players' union executive director Donald Fehr and his brother, Steve, the special counsel -- the third straight meeting with just the four principals -- about the only thing to which both sides agreed was that under the NHL's most recent counteroffer, the players' share of the current overall revenues would be 46 percent, up from the initial NHL offer of 43.

But Donald Fehr said that if hockey-related revenues are redefined, with some monies being removed as the NHL wishes, the pie is smaller. Either way, the owners want a larger share. Bettman said the 57 percent players' share in the current agreement was not an "entitlement" and needs to be reduced "in this economic climate." He does not foresee a 7 percent average annual increase in revenues as in the recent years.

Another contentious subject is escrow. "If the player doesn't get the dollar value of his contract because of a rollback," Fehr said, "or whether he doesn't get an amount because there's escrow, he still doesn't get it. It amounts to the same thing. That's one of the issues which has occurred in the other cap sports."

But Bettman said a rollback changes contract terms for the term of the deal; with escrow, which has been in place for seven years, a contract's value can fluctuate depending on revenues.

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